On March 5, GEOGRADS, the graduate student association of the department of Geography, Planning, and Environment, made history by being the first graduate association from an Anglophone university in Quebec to vote in favour of an unlimited strike mandate. They were followed by their peers in Engineering and Computer Science and later by the GSA, the umbrella organization representing all of Concordia’s graduate population. As of now over 6,000 graduate students at Concordia have approved unlimited strike mandates in their general assemblies.
Graduate students at Concordia have therefore joined the province-wide student movement opposing the Liberals’ funding plan for education. Concordia graduate students, especially in Geography, are extremely concerned by the shift away from public funding in favour of private funding as laid out in the plan. This radical shift in funding sources includes tuition hikes that have been largely discussed in the press, but also an increased reliance on private funding from donations and corporations. In order to meet the objectives of the plan, universities will have to increase their private donations by 50% in the next six years. Graduate students are worried about how this might affect the integrity and autonomy of current and future research. Moreover, 10-20% of the proposed new funding is earmarked for “competitive positioning” (i.e. advertising), not for direct improvements in the education system.
By voting for an unlimited strike mandate, the Geography graduate students are taking a strong stance against the commercialization of research and the commodification of education.